Rep. Kelly Introduces Defending Internet Freedom Act of 2014

Nov 19, 2014

Bill would protect Internet from foreign government control

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) – a member of the House Ways and Means Committee – issued the following statement today after introducing H.R. 5737, the Defending Internet Freedom Act of 2014. The legislation would prevent the Obama administration, or that of any future president, from relinquishing the critical functions of the Internet – currently stewarded by the United States – to any other entity without enhanced congressional oversight and until explicit, freedom-protecting requirements are met. It is being co-sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), who also serves as chairman and co-founder of the Congressional High Tech Caucus.

Statement by Rep. Kelly:

“Preserving Internet freedom is an American duty. The requirements within this bill will guarantee that the Internet remains unchained and out of the grasp of bad actors and hostile powers that actively limit freedom.

“It is no coincidence that the Internet has been able to safely flourish beyond anyone’s imagination under the stewardship of a nation devoted to democratic principles. These principles – American principles – are indispensable to the free flow of information online, which benefits billions of citizens worldwide. Therefore, our stewardship must never be surrendered to an entity that does not venerate liberty and openness as we do. Whether the Obama administration understands it or not, America has strong interests in ensuring that freedom of speech and commerce remain maximally protected on the Internet for people everywhere, now and into the future.”

Endorsements & praise for the Defending Internet Freedom Act of 2014:

Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice: “Nowhere have the power of free speech and the importance of our First Amendment been more evident than in the revolutionary growth of the Internet. Preserving the free and open nature of this exchange is absolutely critical. Congressman Mike Kelly is to be commended for his thoughtful legislation that would ensure the continued freedom and success of the world’s most powerful information technology.”

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President & CEO, Center for Security Policy: “The Obama administration's abdication of long-standing, exclusive U.S. oversight over ICANN constitutes a threat both to American foreign policy interests and to American First Amendment freedoms.  Although it is our view that such a transfer must not take place – and that a requirement for explicit authorization from Congress is the most effective check on such a move – the Defending Internet Freedom Act imposes at least some measure of congressional oversight over this reckless decision by requiring President Obama to certify to the people's elected representatives in Congress, based on several criteria, that any proposed alternative arrangement regarding Internet governance does not jeopardize American sovereignty or security.”

Eagle Forum: “The Internet has flourished as a forum for open discourse and commerce thanks to American oversight. Surrendering control would only benefit those who think the Internet is too free and too open. Rep. Kelly’s bill ensures that the Obama administration won’t be able to forfeit America’s crucial role as guardian of Internet freedom.”

The Heritage Foundation: “In short, the Internet is too important for the announced transition to occur in a manner that threatens the freedom or vitality of the Internet. Thankfully, there are some Members of Congress who are paying attention to this critical issue. The most recent contribution is the Defending Internet Freedom Act of 2014 introduced by Representative Mike Kelly (R–PA).”

BACKGROUND: On March 14, 2014, the Obama administration announced that it will not renew the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), thereby turning over stewardship of the Internet’s crucial functions to “the global multistakeholder community.”

According to media expert Gordon Crovitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, “Russia, China and other authoritarian governments have already been working to redesign the Internet more to their liking, and now they will no doubt leap to fill the power vacuum caused by America's unilateral retreat.”

On June 11, 2014, Rep. Kelly authored a guest op-ed for Red Alert Politics describing the stakes of surrendering American stewardship of the Internet to a multinational body or any other entity. The op-ed can be read here.

On July 15, 2014, Rep. Kelly hosted a policy briefing on Capitol Hill on the future of Internet governance in light of the Obama administration’s announcement. The hearing was attended by dozens of Congressional staffers and featured professional analysis by three field experts. Read more about the briefing here.